AUGUSTA, Maine — Unfinished business.
That was the mantra this season for the Calais High School girls basketball team after it lost in the Class C state championship game last year.
The Blue Devils took care of business Saturday night at the Augusta Civic Center.
Calais bottled up the middle and created several turnovers with an active 2-3 zone defense that paved the way for a 52-40 victory over Carrabec of North Anson in the Class C title game.
“We always said it before a game and today was our unfinished business, finally,” said junior guard Kaylee Johnson.
“It feels amazing to win the gold ball,” she added. “I wanted a gold ball so bad after last year.”
Coach Dana Redding’s ballclub (20-2) overcame subpar shooting (29 percent) while limiting the Cobras (18-5) to 33 percent accuracy. The Blue Devils forced several of Carrabec’s 17 turnovers and took advantage of some transition opportunities.
“We didn’t have a good shooting night. We had a few turnovers that we normally don’t have,” said Cobras coach Skip Rugh. “All in all, they played well, we just didn’t capitalize on our chances.”
Junior point guard Maddy McVicar sparked Calais with a game-high 17 points and three steals, while Johnson tallied 14 points, including 10 from the foul line. Paige Gillespie chipped in with seven points, three rebounds and two blocked shots and Olivia Smith provided six points and eight rebounds.
Carrabec (18-5) received 11 points and five rebounds from post player Emma Pluntke and Mickayla Willette had 10 points and seven rebounds. Macy Welch led all rebounders with 13 to help the Cobras post a 44-30 advantage.
The switch from player-to-player into a 2-3 zone to open the second quarter helped Calais clog the middle and keep the Cobras off the offensive boards. Carrabec committed five turnovers in the period.
“We were getting in foul trouble, too, and I thought we might be able to stay out of foul trouble a little bit more if we did go zone,” Redding said.
Calais had trouble getting its shots to fall despite some good looks at the basket. Carrabec’s player defense had a strong post presence with 6-footer Pluntke, and Gillespie encountered early foul trouble.
McVicar responded by scoring 10 of her points in the first half.
“It was harder for them [Calais post players] to make a move because they had that post on one side and the post on the other side would come over and help,” McVicar said. “The guards had to step it up and they could drive to the middle.”
The Blue Devils initiated a 12-2 spurt two minutes into the second quarter. Johnson scored a fast-break layup, then McVicar cashed in on a Carrabec turnover with a 10-foot jumper.
After another of the Cobras’ 10 first-half turnovers, Smith scored on a rebound, then Johnson’s foul shot gave Calais a 20-15 lead with 3:40 left in the period.
Liberty Chestnut ended the run with an 18-footer, but Kate Cundiff (4 points, 4 rebounds) hit a shot from the foul line, then Carter’s free throw and two McVicar foul shots pushed the spread to 25-17.
“Paige [Gillespie] usually scores underneath, but she got in foul trouble, so the guards had to do a little more tonight,” Redding said.
Chestnut scored six points in the quarter for Carrabec, including two baskets in the last 37 seconds of the half to keep her team within six. Even so, the Cobras were never able to regain the lead.
Carrabec cut the deficit to three points on three occasions, but Calais survived 2-for-15 shooting in the third quarter.
McVicar opened the fourth with a conventional three-point play that included her patented eight-footer from the lane, then Johnson made a steal and threw in a runner to put the Blue Devils on top 38-30 only 21 seconds into the period.
Calais went into a more patient offensive mode the rest of the way and converted 13 of 18 foul shots to clinch the victory.
“We focused on defense and we knew we wanted it more,” McVicar said of the Blue Devils’ season. “Last year, coming in losing, we didn’t like the feeling. This year, coming out winning, we know we like it a lot better.”